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Australia to launch Indian Ocean military exercises from Colombo

AFP  |  Colombo 

will launch a seven-nation military exercise next week, starting in where has invested in strategic ports and loaned huge amounts to build other infrastructure, Canberra's said Friday.

Some 1,000 Australian security personnel in four naval ships and a military aircraft will participate in the biggest joint exercise yet with their Sri Lankan counterparts, Canberra's top in Colombo, Jon Philp, said.

"and are increasingly like-minded on maritime security and issues," Philp said adding that the two will improve cooperation and familiarity with each other's defence forces.

Australian forces will move to neighbouring on March 26 and thereafter travel to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and before returning to Darwin after two and a half months.

The joint exercise comes as concerns grow over Beijing's influence on Sri Lanka's economy and Chinese control over two key ports.

Unable to service a USD 1.4 billion Chinese loan to build a deep-sea port in the island's south, Colombo leased the facility to a company for USD 1.12 billion in 2017.

A state-owned Chinese company also runs Sri Lanka's biggest container terminal in Colombo.

Neighbouring as well as Western nations have expressed concern about China's foothold on vital locations in which is strategically placed along the most important route.

An ambitious plan, seeking to link Asia, and with a network of ports, highways and railways, has seen disperse tens of billions of dollars in loans to developing nations, sparking fears of a "debt trap".

The largest single lender to Sri Lanka, has secured contracts to build roads, railways and ports.

Philp played down China's growing presence in the region saying considered a "extremely important" partner.

"We welcome China's role in the region and look forward to working with China," he said.

Growing fears of political influence from foreign states, particularly China, saw pass a raft of new laws last year to curb potential meddling.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 15 2019. 18:15 IST